California Stops Requiring Academic Prerequisites for Horseshoeing Schools

Press release from the Institute for Justice:

After more than four years of litigation, Bob Smith and Pacific Coast Horseshoeing School (PCHS) are free to return to teaching horseshoeing to students who have not completed high school or an equivalent government-mandated exam….

“Horseshoeing is not related to calculus, writing, or social studies.”[,” Bob said. “]Horses don’t do math, and horses don’t read books. A horse can be shod if it can be walked on. …

While no country prohibits someone from riding a horse in any state, California banned Bob from instructing horseshoeing for certain students. California’s “ability to benefit” law prohibits schools such as Bob’s from accepting students without a GED or high school diploma.

First Amendment protections learning as well as teaching. It doesn’t matter if someone learns or is paid to teach. California could not punish Bob for writing a book about horseshoeing. It is not unusual to teach a tuition-paying student group. To protect his First Amendment rights, as well as the rights of his students, Bob and PCHS partnered with IJ and challenged the law….

June 2020: The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled California’s law was incompatible with the First Amendment rights of Bob and his student. The case was remanded to Sacramento’s federal trial court, and the state would be required to show that it could withstand First Amendment scrutiny.

In September 2021, California Assembly approved a bill to repeal the requirement of “ability-to benefit”. The change is effective January 1. Bob’s School will continue to accept students regardless their education level or score on the state exam.

For more on the Ninth Circuit decision, see here; I had filed an amicus brief in support of the School on behalf of Profs. Jane Bambauer and Clay Calvert and Dean Rodney Smolla were also present.